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LETTER: Many people saw the obvious about Muskrat Falls early on

The Muskrat Falls construction site in August 2017.
The Muskrat Falls construction site in August 2017. — Telegram file photo

I write with respect to Ed Conway’s Jan. 26th letter to The Telegram (“Asking the right questions about Muskrat Falls”).

Conway points out that on Feb. 29, 2012, he wrote to the Public Utilities Board stating that he used “only publicly available data to show that there would be massive cost overruns and, more importantly, massive demand deficiency, making the Muskrat Falls project a serious mistake.”

He went on to ask, “why is it that it is only 2018 that experts such as Grant Thornton are able to see the obvious?”

Early on, however, experts such David Vardy, Cabot Martin, Stephen Bruneau, Jim Feehan, Ron Penney, Bern Coffey, Dennis Browne, Richard Cashin, Vic Young and the PUB were able to see the obvious.

And at the political and public service levels? Common sense, critical/independent thinking and loyalty to the public’s best interests were abandoned.

And more than seven years before Grant Thornton’s expert report (almost two years before sanction) and more than eight months before Conway’s 2012 submission to the PUB, my June 23, 2011 letter to The Telegram (“By Nalcor’s own numbers”) asked “... who in their right mind would borrow $5 billion or $6 billion to produce electricity for domestic use — when the facts over the last 20 years show clearly that there has been virtually no increase in demand ... (and) the average compound growth rate has been 23 times lower than Nalcor’s 40-year average rate of 2.3 per cent?”

In the 2011 and 2012-year pre-sanction periods alone, The Telegram published non-expert letters such as “Nalcor and numbers,” “By Nalcor’s own numbers,” “Bad numbers from Nalcor,” “Muskrat Falls: boon or boondoggle?”, “By the numbers,” “The danger of long-term forecasts,” “Nalcor’s faulty forecasts,” “Looking for proof of increasing energy demand,” “The need for power isn’t proven,” and more.

The problem has not been the failure to see the obvious. It has been government’s blind reliance on Nalcor as “world class experts” and on Nalcor’s use of experts’ reports, their analyses, their conclusions, etc. that were edited, portions deleted, massaged, manipulated (or whatever) to ensure the sanctioning of a project that as early as in March and April,2011, I was able to conclude that we did not need, could not afford, and that was too high a risk.

Experts were not needed then and are not needed now to see “the obvious” — the flaws, the omissions, the erroneous assumptions, the dangers and the risks/weaknesses of a purposefully crafted boondoggle.

And at the political and public service levels? Common sense, critical/independent thinking and loyalty to the public’s best interests were abandoned.

The question that should be asked therefore is not why the experts did not early on see the obvious, but why were the experts (and non-experts alike) then and now dismissed, glossed over and/or ignored?

The more things change...

Maurice E. Adams
Paradise


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